Doctors still bent on protecting self-interest

2024. 3. 4. 20:02
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If the KMA evades its primary role and sticks to its self-interest persistently, it cannot win sympathy from the people.

Two weeks have passed since trainee doctors of major hospitals walked out after handing in resignations in a mass to protest the government’s decision to raise the enrollment quota for medical schools across the country. The government set Feb. 29 as the deadline for their return to work and threatened to revoke their license to practice medicine. But most of them still refuses to return to their hospital. In the meantime, the hardship and conflict in the hospitals are only getting worse.

In large general hospitals which trainee doctors left, medical professors and subspecialty doctors are tending to patients and duties of interns and residents. They are under extreme fatigue and burnout due to overwork. Cho Yong-soo, an ER professor at Chonnam National University Hospital, complained that he could die before retiring. A professor in a general hospital in the capital region said that three doctors are rotating to cover three inpatient wards on top of receiving hordes of outpatients. The vacuum would become larger when those subspecialty doctors leave the hospitals after their contracts end.

Trainee doctors, or interns and resident doctors, must return to their patients by remembering their duties and oath. No collective action can gain justice if it holds hostage a patient’s wellbeing and life. Anyone can express a complaint against a public policy in a free democracy. But the means and method must be justified to gain support from the general public. Even if they oppose the government policy for the quota increase, they must fulfill their duty while protesting it if they want to get sympathy from people. The government also must not stop efforts to talk to trainee doctors.

The Korean Medical Association (KMA), a lobbying group for doctors, must not victimize trainee doctors for its cause. It demanded the government renegotiate the issue from scratch, ignoring some voices from the medical community agreeing to the need to increase the medical school quota even if it disagrees with the sudden 2,000 hike proposed by the government. The KMA, in a recent statement, warned of a collective strike and shutdown.

The leadership of the lobbying group must not forget that a collective walkout could worsen public sentiment towards doctors. The complaint over the trainee doctors’ strike could amplify if clinics in the neighborhood join the strike.

The KMA is a legal group mandating all licensed doctors to join. Therefore, the leadership has a heavy duty to defend the health rights of the people and advance medical services for them. If it evades its primary role and sticks to its self-interest persistently, it cannot win sympathy from the people.

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